Chalk it up to metabolism or genetics, but I was born to be a standard chubby dude. I’m hovering around 180 pounds now but if I were to live as a typical guy – mostly eat okay, work out occasionally, exceptions abound — I’d probably be around 210. Those 30 pounds will be fogging up my my rearview forever.
Hence, I’ve tried diets. All of the diets.
Before I get to the one that’s worked best for me, here are the most important things I’ve learned in my approximately one million hours of research and experience:
(1) Fad diets don’t work. (No shit.) Here is a general rule: if you aren’t prepared to continue with your diet until the day you die, stop it and find another. Losing ten pounds in one month and gaining it back the following month is worse than pointless, it’s actively depressing.
(2) Exercise doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s great for your overall health & happiness but in terms of losing weight, exercise isn’t very helpful. Why? Two main reasons: you are burning fewer calories than you think, and you’ll need to replace the energy you just burned off somehow. You went for a two-mile run? That’s great! You ate a PowerBar afterwards? Never mind! Working off calories takes roughly a thousand times longer than ingesting them. What’s the easier choice for you: walking a mile EVERY time you eat a handful of M&Ms, or laying off the M&Ms in the first place? It is all about the diet.
(3) Simplicity is key. If your diet is complicated, it’s not gonna last. I’m looking in your direction, calorie counting. Are you prepared to tally your exact calories every single day? No, you are not.
So the goal is to find a simple eating plan that you’re prepared to do continue forever. It took me years but I finally found the solution: intermittent fasting.
YIKES, you say. HELLA YIKES, BRO. THAT SOUNDS CRAZY. I agree the term rings gimmicky and cultish, so I typically phrase it a different way: I don’t eat breakfast.
That’s it. All the research and diet attempts and exercise regimens and calorie apps and frozen meals have been replaced by three words: Stop. Eating. Breakfast.
Okay, I admit there is a *tiny* bit more to it than that. But not much. I’ll explain in a series FAQs because who doesn’t love a lazy, stale literary format.
QUESTION 1: WHAT IN THE SHIT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
Intermittent fasting is exactly what it sounds like. You ingest zero calories for a set amount of time (black coffee and unsweetened tea don’t count) on a regular basis. The most common is the 1x20, which means that once a week you do a 20-hour fast. For example, after dinner Sunday night (8pm) you don’t eat again until late afternoon Monday (4pm). You essentially skip two meals. Those looking to get more aggressive will do that twice a week.
Another common routine, and the one that works best for me, is the 5x16 (16–hour fast, 5 days a week). 16 hours seemed daunting until I realized I am typically done with dinner by 8pm, so basically I just needed to get to noon the following day. Hence, no late-night eating and then skip breakfast. Seemed easy enough, so I gave it a shot.
Result: yep, very easy. Most of us do basically no physical activity between 8pm and noon. [Your dumb sex joke goes here.] For the most part it’s couch > bed > car > desk. We’re not out milking cows and plowing fields anymore, so there is almost no way your body was able to burn off the thousand-calorie dinner from last night.
QUESTION 2: AND YOU’RE SURE IT WORKS?
Sure, according to all of these articles. It could be flawed but it’s simple to try, it’s worked for me and the very concept of eating fewer calories is essentially bulletproof. So in conclusion: yes. Pretty gotdamn sure.
As for me, I dropped 15 lbs in the first 6 months and that number is my new normal. My average ‘give-or-take-a-few-ell-bees weight’ is now 180, a year ago it was 192.
QUESTION 3: WON’T I BE HUNGRY?
Yeah, this is the only real challenge with the diet. It’s not that you can’t physically make it to noon without eating, it’s the fear that you may be so hungry once the clock hits 12 you’ll sprint to the cafeteria and have guzzled the entire canister of ranch dressing by 12:01. I barely struggled at all but your mileage may vary. I can tell you that it won’t be more than slightly uncomfortable, and that your body will quickly adjust.
QUESTION 4: YEAH BUT MY METABOLISM WILL SLOW DOWN.
False. Very false. It’s a popular myth because it sounds intuitively right, but your body won’t go into survival mode and slow your metabolism until ~72 hours without calories, probably because you have so much fat reserves. [Accidentally glances down at your stomach for the briefest moment, you catch me, I blush and avoid eye contact for next hour.] I mean, all humans do. Not just you. I’m sorry.
Point is, don’t ever think that skipping meals slows down your metabolism. Skipping meals is a GOOD thing.
QUESTION 5: OKAY, IT’S FINALLY NOON. NOW WHAT?
Shitchyeah, feedbag time. But slow your roll just a touch, champ. The key here is that you don’t take the morning fast as an opportunity to get on a daily-rack-of-ribs routine. You have to eat normally. (This gets tougher during the 20-hour fasts, obviously.) Eat like a normal human being for dinner, too. You don’t get to ingest the 300 extra calories you sacrificed for breakfast. You DO get to be regular: mostly eat okay, work out occasionally. The ability to just be a typical person most of the time is a triumph for a diet. Viva normalcy!
QUESTION 6: WHAT IF I SLIP UP?
Eh, who cares. This isn’t some new-age weirdo BS where if you accidentally eat 5MG of carbs you get spontaneous fat-face and have to start over. This is a lifestyle, not a diet. Eat a muffin if your coworker made them herself and will give the stink-eye if you say no, order eggs during the family breakfast so you don’t come off as a culty health nut, etc. Just make sure you only eat before noon if absolutely necessary.
QUESTION 7: HEY I JUST REALIZED YOU SAID THIS IS ONLY A 5-DAY FAST.
Nice work, eagle eyes. Only took you a few minutes. That’s right, the science department has told us a five-day schedule is enough to see results. So go ahead and take the weekends off. I still try to not eat a whole lot in the mornings unless I’m hung over and the willpower section of my brain is buried under the puddle of IPAs still draining from my skull, but I do my best to not eat in the mornings if I can help it.
So there you go, that’s it. Obviously you morning exercisers and late-night eaters may have to adjust the schedule or give the 1x20 a try, but this has been a slow-but-steady revelation for me. Just wanted to share. Laters~